Celebrating Inquiry Fall 2016

Welcome to the fifth issue of our online celebration of learning and achievement by University of Lethbridge intern teachers. Below you will find profiles of all projects presented at the Fall 2016 Professional Inquiry Project (PIP) Symposium. These projects were completed by by pre-service teachers in their final twelve-week practicum. Please be aware that external links are supplied by contributors and are not maintained or monitored by the University of Lethbridge.

A Comprehensive Resource for Teaching Jazz Improvisation

What approach is most effective for teaching jazz improvisation at the high school level?

Description:

Jazz improvisation is something that I have always been very passionate about, considering it an excellent source of accessing creativity. Many high schools and junior high schools have a jazz component in their music program but very few teach the concept of creating improvised solos. I believe this is because many teachers feel uncomfortable with the topic themselves. Based on this conclusion, I decided to develop a program which teaches both teachers and students about improvisation in a way that is not only fun, but reduces anxiety through using scaffolding techniques. The project approaches improvisation through the use of a piece of music arranged specifically for this program to give students all of the tools necessary to be successful in their solos. It also outlines a step-by-step process into order to ease the mind of uncomfortable students and teachers alike.

Method:

In order to make this project both authentic and successful, I first approached the students and had them speak to me about what experiences they had already had with improvisation, including what made those experiences either positive or negative. I used this information to find a way to differentiate within my program so that students would be able to benefit from it regardless of what learner type or playing level they might be at. I presented the information to the students once it was compiled, and began addressing the specific elements they had identified in the initial questions. What was created as a result of this preparatory work was a more learner-based project where students felt they could actually be successful while improvising.

As I presented new information to the students over the course of my internship I found some trends on what worked for them and what didn't. Generally, the students found the information a lot more interesting and relevant when it was presented in a practical way. Because of this observation I began to incorporate a lot more playing into the learning exercises. This technique allowed the students to experience the learning rather than just trying read and repeat the information.

I found that there were few to no existing arrangements that would give all of the students in the ensemble the opportunity to solo, so I arranged my own piece of music for Jazz Big Band. The students were also given a booklet with soloing instruction that was both general and specific to this piece of music. Some external resources (primarily Web-based) were consulted for the historical context section of the booklet, but a majority of the information comes from the knowledge that I have accumulated over the years from playing in this style of music. The combination of the booklet and the specialized music meant that students were able to take new skills and more easily apply them in a meaningful way.

Results:

This project seemed to have a lasting effect on my students and they have opened their minds to a more positive view of improvisation. I could hear the improvements happening on a weekly basis and greatly enjoyed hearing this progress. I hope to make more of these arrangements and accompanying booklets for many more styles of jazz for the high school level band in the next year or so. I feel that these resources could be a powerful tool for students and teachers alike when trying to teach/learn the art of improvising and the stylistic aspects of jazz.

Kevin Jackson completed PS III at the High School level. He completed his Bachelor of Music with a focus on classical trombone in 2015 and has continued playing at a professional level while completing his Bachelor of Education. Music Education is something that Kevin is very passionate about, and he feels that it can help develop valuable lifelong skills in a truly authentic way.

http://kevjackson.weebly.com

Creating Community Interaction: Artist Trading Cards

How can art be used as a tool to create engagement between students and their community? Specifically, how can Artist Trading Cards be used to interact with a wide variety of community members?

Description:

I wanted to develop a cooperative, engaging, and encouraging art community at W.R. Myers High School. I recognized that this may be difficult in the classroom because such a large percentage of my students held no true interest in studio art as a form of self-expression and culture. I decided that a well-directed after school art club could create this community, especially if it had a sense of focus. Enter Artist Trading Cards. ATC’s are self-made unique artworks following the same format as baseball cards. They are 2.5 by 3.5 inches in size featuring an artwork on the front and the artist’s signature, a title, and a date on the back. They began as a conceptual art project initiated by the Swiss artist M. Vänçi Stirnemann in 1997. He called it a Collaborative Cultural Performance because of the interactive trading process involved.

I created the Artist Trading Card Club, which I host twice a week. All students and staff members of the school are welcome to join, no previous art experience needed, and attendance is on a drop-in basis with no long-term commitment required. The club motto is: “This is our laboratory”, suggesting that there are no boundaries placed on the students’ creativity, choice of image, or choice of medium. Experimentation of all kinds is encouraged! I supply all the materials necessary to make the cards and occasionally offer mini workshops with demonstrations on specific techniques that either are not taught in class or are requested by the students not enrolled in art classes. I consulted ATC groups online for theme and workshop ideas as well as fellow art majors and alumni from the University of Lethbridge.

Once a sufficient number of cards have been completed we trade them with one of our trading partners. I organized trading partners from within a variety of demographics including other high schools, university level art students, and established artists. We trade through the mail, through myself as an in-between, and also in person. Through the trading process students have an opportunity to engage within their community and the surrounding art community that is already in place.

Results:

The project progressed as the group of club members grew. I felt it had truly succeeded once we had a large number of non-art students join. I observed a great deal of peer-to-peer teaching, encouragement, and idea sharing. My greatest surprise was the creativity employed by the students! The variety of cards produced was much vaster than I had imagined. 

I succeeded in using the club as a tool to create an open and supportive collaborative art community, and to draw in students who did not previously feel comfortable in the art room. As a group we worked to dispel previously conceived notions of what art has to be and to create space for experimentation and self-expression. The trading process strongly impacted my students by exposing them to a wide range of art and artists. In some cases, it boosted their self-confidence because it gave them a meaningful, concrete way to express and share themselves. The more developed artists in the group benefited greatly from the experience of interacting with practicing and established artists. It was special to them that an established artist would want to share and collaborate with beginning artists like themselves. In time these relationships could provide my students with additional role models in their field of interest and inspire them to engage further in their local art community.

As part of the project I created an Instagram page for the club where I posted photographs of each completed card. This page acted as a platform for interaction with the international art community. Students could comment on each other's works and frequently received comments from other artists. My goal was to use the Instagram page to organize trades with practicing artists from outside of Alberta, in order to expand our impact and connection. At this point, I have not achieved this goal.

Upon completing my project, I will pass the curation of the Instagram account onto the most involved members of the club and, with my mentor's permission, they may continue to run the club themselves along with my continued involvement as a trading partner. Future applications of this project would be expanding to include all neighboring schools in order to create an ongoing trading community where students would have the opportunity to participate from grade one through twelve.

Jana grew up on an acreage nestled in the foothills just outside of Okotoks, blessed with a beautiful view of the Rocky Mountains from her backyard. Both Jana’s parents have had successful careers as educators and passed on their love of knowledge. Following in their footsteps, she moved to the windy city of Lethbridge six years ago to pursue her combined B.F.A/B.Ed. degree at the University of Lethbridge. Her major is art studio with a minor in CTS: Community Health Focus. She is set to graduate December 2016 and could not be more excited to join the world of education!

In addition to being a teacher Jana is a practicing artist. Her focus is nature-inspired abstract oil painting. She also works in illustrative drawing and printmaking. Other interests include hiking, camping, skiing, yoga, environmentalism, animal activism, community arts and culture, and volunteerism.

Inclusion in the Dramatic Arts and Beyond

How can drama empower the overlooked? Exploring inclusion through the drama curriculum.

Description:

Growing up, my brother and I suffered from a number of health concerns and learning disabilities. Due to inflammation, my brother was deaf and struggled in school. Eventually, repeated failures in the school system led to us being homeschooled up to university. Now that I am joining the teaching profession, it is my goal to do what I can to encourage the profession to find ways to include students who don't fit the mold. First, though, I needed to find out how to achieve this in my own classroom. As our schools grow in the philosophy of inclusion, it is imperative we are prepared to meet this need, and dramatic exercises and philosophies can help shape an environment which includes all students in learning.

Method:

My PIP followed two lines of thought. The first would be of benefit for individual students, and new teachers, while the second should leave an impression on the class as a whole, and hopefully affect the culture of the school thereafter. In the case of the first, I sought to document practical ways of assisting specific students with individual learning needs, (PDD, ADHD, ELL, Amputations, etc.). Secondly, as a class, we began by asking what it means to be part of a community, extending this concept to the inclusion of others. From here, the students constructed a number of plays, with a focus on a loss of a certain ability. For example, the students recorded radio plays which show the world as if one was blind- students had to determine how to convey meaning with the absence of sight. Next we explored life devoid of sound, conveying story through dance, mime, choreography, stage combat, and the like. Thus, while some students have had little or no experience with such exceptionalities, it is thought that such an experience can instill empathy for others. In this way, the program of study outcomes were still met, creativity was fostered, and empathy was encouraged. Lastly, the students created invisible theatre pieces with the intent of spreading the spirit of inclusion throughout the school.

Results:

This project impacted my learning in a number of ways. I learned that instilling these attitudes is something that must be explored with the class, not simply preached to them. Stopping bullying, drug abuse, and any myriad of other social issues is not achieved through a top down command, but an internal shift. Thus, I found I needed to give students ownership of their projects.

While the impact on my own students was clear through the community that was built in class (clearly evident when compared to where we were at the start of the semester), I was also able to release the students into the school and they carried the attitudes of inclusion and community with them. As my project wraps up, I am now focusing on how these insights can be applied to other disciplines and classrooms, inspired by my conversations with other Intern teachers in my school.

Graham is in his final year of his after-degree in education, having graduated with a B.A in Dramatic arts and a Minor in English. He has always been passionate about teaching those overlooked by society, which was the genesis of his inquiry question.

http://grahammacbean.weebly.com

FNMI Success in School

What do you think a Non-FNMI person needs to do in order to make a student feel a greater sense of belonging?

Description:

Originally, my goal was to create a series of lesson plans for content integration of First Nation, Metis and Inuit perspectives, but my project evolved to be much deeper than that. My inspiration came from a PD session at my placement about the success of First Nations, Metis and Inuit learners compared to their non-FNMI peers. I wanted to inquire further about why this is happening. I collaborated with my mentor teacher to develop a series of four PD sessions for our school about increasing success among FNMI students.

Method:

My Mentor Teacher was interested in my perspective as a First Nation Education major but also as a non-Aboriginal person. Together, we focused on the district and provincial goals surrounding FNMI education. We created a series of sessions for Professional Development with two goals in mind: 1) to demonstrate the importance of ensuring that First Nations, Metis and Inuit students can achieve the same amount of success and representation in classes; 2) to reinforce that our entire school community, not just teachers, must be made aware of issues and circumstances that affect Indigenous peoples in Canada.

Results:

We presented our findings to the school in a series of four sessions: Personal Education Journeys, History of First Nations Education, Current Issues in Education, and a final session centered on the nearby Blood Reserve. We are going to continue presenting these sessions over the remainder of the school year, highlighting provincial, district and school wide goals.

One of the major implications of this project is that teachers are given specific strategies for attempting to understand students who may experience a lack of success in school. The project helped me reflect on my own practice, influencing the way I interact with students.

Hawley’s degree is in First Nations Education with a minor in Social Studies. She completed her Internship at St. Francis Junior High in Lethbridge.

http://hawleymassel.weebly.com/professional-inquiry-project.html

FNMI Teacher Resources: Encouraging Educators to Incorporate Multiple Perspectives

How can having authentic, reliable, and accessible First Nations, Metis, and Inuit resources help teachers integrate and implement FNMI perspectives?

Description:

Our Professional Inquiry Project is focused on providing reliable and accessible resources for teachers in order to incorporate First Nations, Mẻtis, and Inuit perspectives into their classrooms. We created a website that includes a variety of resources including: unit plans, lesson plans, books, novel studies, activities and websites. We came up with this idea because we are Native American Studies Majors, and we are passionate about including FNMI perspectives into our teaching. The intention is that all teachers are able to use this website in order to feel more comfortable incorporating First Nations, Mẻtis, and Inuit perspectives into their daily teaching.

Method:

Our starting process was fairly easy because we knew exactly what we wanted to accomplish. Thus, we created a website full of resources for teachers. The website is designed in a way that is easily accessible to all users, and we continuously added resources throughout the Internship. These additional materials were generated from resources we had prior to the internship, as well as through consulting with FNMI liaison workers. It was important to ensure that our information was not only accurate, but also appropriate for teachers to use in their classrooms.

In addition, our site contains information regarding the Truth and Reconciliation Commission findings in order to familiarize teachers with its significance, particularly in relation to education. As the Teaching Quality Standards are changing, it is important that teachers have available resources that will not only support those standards related to First Nation, Metis, and Inuit perspectives, but can help teachers feel comfortable including these perspectives on a daily basis.

The development of our website was a gradual process, and it continued to fill with resources week by week. We have spent a lot of time on the site to ensure that it is exceptional. As the semester comes to an end, we will both have the opportunity to present our website to the staff. Therefore, we can navigate through, show specific examples, and answer any questions. In addition, it is our intent to share our website with both the Holy Spirit Roman Catholic Separate Regional Division No. 4, and Lethbridge School District No. 51.

Results:

The project contributed to our own learning by allowing us the opportunity to become more familiar with the resources themselves. We had to go through each of the resources in depth to ensure they were authentic and appropriate for both students and teachers. As the project is intended for teachers, the impact on students will be a gradual process, though the end goal is to reach to Alberta students with quality resources that support greater understanding of First Nations, Metis and Inuit history, culture and worldview.

Our goal is to keep the website updated and continuously add resources as they become available to us. Continued work on the website will also contribute to our professional growth during our first years of teaching.

We are really satisfied with how our Professional Inquiry Project turned out, and we truly believe that it will help teachers incorporate and implement FNMI perspectives into their classrooms.

Kayli O’Donnell and Brittany Mahon are both Native Education majors, who are passionate about incorporating and implementing First Nations, Metis, and Inuit perspectives into education. Both are completing their final internships at Ecole St. Mary & Wilson Middle School respectively, both teaching grade 6.

http://fnmiteacherresources.weebly.com

Needs and Nations: Building Imaginary Worlds to Solve Social Studies Problems

How can we use long-term role-playing and game-based learning to increase engagement in secondary social studies classrooms?

Description:

As a trained English teacher, my unexpected transition into social studies came with some surprising challenges. I was reluctant to adopt a traditional, content-focused teaching style because I wanted to create a high degree of engagement. The grade 11 social studies curriculum focuses entirely on nationalism, so I tried to think of a way to make this topic relevant and applicable for students by bringing in an element of “play” and real-time learning. That is when the concept of “Needs and Nations” came to me: "We already have all of the components of a nation in the classroom, why not simply allow them to become a nation of their own?" I thought. This idea brought my history with role-playing games into the classroom. Through the two class trials that I have undertaken this semester, I have found that consistent long-range simulation creates an environment that not only engages students to interact with course outcomes, but also allows them a hands-on approach to learning social studies.

Method:

The first resource I looked for was research on the implementation of role-playing in education. Alongside my own history as a longtime gamer, I found several key methods that can achieve student/player engagement while also building a system founded on the Program of Studies outcomes. By recreating facsimiles of historical situations and empowering the students as the government of a nation, I was able to keep students engaged and create a sense of weight in their decision-making without imposing a grade-based consequence.

I started the simulation with the realization that students need to be in direct and complete control of their own nation for this project to function properly. Where this approach is different from other simulations is in the length. Most classroom simulations or role-playing games last a few classes at the most. My approach focused on testing out a system which would run a half-hour for each class of the entire semester, and continuous refinement was needed. The amount of fine-tuning required for the most optimal delivery method was immense.

As a player of tabletop role-playing games, I was aware from the beginning that no plan survives first contact with the players (or students in this case). For this plan to succeed, I needed to achieve three main goals: achieve student buy-in, engage students in a customized world, and connect the world with course outcomes. The first step of implementation was the most dangerous. This type of implementation lives or dies on student buy-in. Without a desire to play a game, the engaging qualities of the game are severely inhibited. Engagement in games ultimately stems from choice: the choice to play, or not to play. The second core goal was empowering students to create a world that they have a personal stake in. There needs to be a personal connection to the world for students to care about what happens in it. Finally, the easiest step was to take the events of the world and form them around course content and outcomes. By creating a system which incorporates course outcomes into student-driven activities, students not only take ownership of their learning but are driven to succeed for the betterment of their personalized world.

One of the biggest surprises I found was quite early on in the process. If we had other activities as a class, I consistently received requests from students to continue the simulation. I quickly found that once students obtained a personal stake in a customized world, they did not want to leave it. At this moment, I realized that I was on to something bigger than I had anticipated. Students were actually seeking out learning activities. There are still setbacks; after all, students are not completely focused one-hundred percent of the time. However, I have seen astounding levels of commitment from otherwise disengaged students. I have seen everything from personal research out of class time to voluntary cross-curricular mathematics.

Results:

My research on long-range role-playing as a learning method has been a resounding success in the fields of engagement and active learning. Students have been excited to participate, eager to engage with materials to better their nation, and I have even had several students who are on spare periods choose to sit in on my class to participate in the Needs and Nations simulation. Teachers in my department have seriously considered using the framework and prepared materials to implement or create their own simulation. Additionally, I have several students involved in assisting with further development of the underlying system.

Due to the success of this project, I am hoping to take this method of delivery even further. I plan to continue research in future classes and have even created a website which outlines the entire process of utilizing this method, including resources to implement the grade 11 campaign that I originally structured for the inaugural run. If this method proves to be as effective in the hands of other educators as it was in my own classroom, I am also considering work on creating a published form of the delivery, as well as creating expansions that would adapt the Needs and Nations framework for use with globalization in the grade 10 curriculum and liberalism in the grade 12 curriculum. Once published, my goal would be to distribute this implementation guide to interested schools and teachers throughout the province.Ultimately, my goal is to make social studies more interactive and more engaging for students. There is a constant push for content absorption in busy high schools that does not often enable teachers to use activities that are highly engaging. I have focused my energy into developing a system that removes this concern, allowing students a chance to engage in material, think critically, and work cooperatively to build, decide, and learn together. The greatest success of my Needs and Nations project is that my students did not realize that they were learning. To them, it was all a fun game.

A lifelong learner and lifelong nerd, Craig Saunders is an aspiring educator who is focusing on bringing engagement into learning through game-based learning. Originally from Calgary, Craig achieved a Bachelor of Arts in English in 2014. He is looking to shake up the classroom.

http://needsandnations.weebly.com
http://craigsaunders.weebly.com

Catholic Education Podcast​

How can schools permeate faith throughout every grade level and subject area?
How can teachers and schools build strong relationships with their parishes?
How can teachers be equipped to permeate the faith in their respective grade level and subject area?

Description:

For our Personal Inquiry Project (PIP), we identified a need for relevant resources and discussion on the topic of faith permeation within all subject areas. We proposed to write, record, produce, and distribute a Catholic Education podcast. The podcast would pursue three main goals:

  1. To discover and share ideas with teachers regarding faith permeation throughout all grade levels and subject areas - not only religion classes.
  2. To discuss and share ways Catholic schools can build stronger relationships with their parishes (clergy, youth ministers, etc.) and become more involved with one another.
  3. To provide teachers with relevant and practical ideas, strategies, and resources for achieving goal 1 and 2, which they can then implement in their school and classroom.

Method:

We filmed a video podcast that addressed the above themes. We consulted two teachers from different districts with experience in these areas. We filmed the podcast, edited it, and then released it online through various podcast outlets (including iTunes and YouTube). There were no major setbacks or surprises other than the need to modify timelines due to the busy nature of PS III and other teaching-related commitments.

Results:

It is our intention for this resource to not only benefit the individual schools in which we are currently teaching, but the entire Catholic Education landscape as a whole. Teachers of all ages and at any stage of their career are a part of the demographic we are targeting. Specifically, our target audience of teachers includes pre-service, in-service, full-time, part-time, substitutes, and administrators within Catholic Education. Directors of Religious Education are also a part of our intended audience.

This podcast will be shared with our individual schools and districts. It will also be shared globally on iTunes, YouTube, the website on which it will be hosted, and with everyone in the #CatholicEdChat community on Twitter and other social media outlets.

Lance is a CTS Education major completing his B.Ed/B.Mgt degree in December 2016. Daniel is a Music Education major completing his B.Ed./B.Mus degree in December 2016. 

http://silversmithcollective.com
http://youtube.com/channel/UCmJ7mrErCSgLb2bjgex8wrQ
http://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/silversmith-collective-podcast/id1048346198

Project Based Learning and Assessment

To what extent does project based learning (PBL) enhance student motivation, engagement, and success? Does PBL allow for authentic assessment?

Description:

My PSIII placement at St. Francis Junior High was centred on Project Based Learning (PBL), so it was through this lens that I created my Humanities 8 unit plans, activities, and assessment tools. My classes were all set up on Google Classroom, which allowed for transparent communication with students, assignment drop boxes and the ability to upload resources and documents, all which contributed to an integrated and meaningful use of technology. With PBL and Google Classroom in mind, I wanted to create comprehensive and detailed project documents that students could follow independently. I felt it was important to incorporate student interest, technology, and creativity into the projects I created so that students would not only be engaged in what they were doing, but also motivated and excited.

Method:

I created numerous projects for both the Renaissance and our novel study, categorized by the six language strands into 3 groups: Reading and Writing, Listening and Speaking, and Viewing and Representing. There were 6-8 projects for each category, per unit. Each project document contained a description that emphasized the main idea and overarching or essential question, a connection to Specific Learner Outcomes in the Curriculum (SLOs), detailed steps to follow to ensure student success, and exemplars and resources students could access independently. From a list, students would choose which project they wanted to do, and I would fill out a checklist form that kept track of all of their projects. They had to complete 1 project from each category for both the Renaissance and for our novel study, resulting in 6 projects total. All Reading and Writing projects had to be done independently, however the Listening and Speaking, and Viewing and Representing projects could be done in pairs or small groups. Students had the option to do a "Voice and Choice" project where they submitted a project proposal of their own design, acceptable as long as they proved it met the requirements. Every student was also required to submit an accompanying written rationale in which they connected their project to the 7 elements of worldview, made personal connections to the Renaissance or their novel, and discussed how the worldview of the Renaissance (or alternatively, what factors of the novel) have contributed to both our worldview today and their personal worldview.

Using Google Classroom allowed for the students to create each project in Google Docs, Google Slides, or other Google Products. The students were given roughly 1 week for each project, and a consistent schedule and routine was quickly established. I conferenced with each student every Wednesday, and additionally as required. There was a sign-up list on the board every class where students could write their name if they required 1:1 assistance.

The use of Chromebooks and Google Classroom allowed for effective formative assessment because I could view their project documents in real time. Each project was marked summatively according to two rubrics: one for social studies content, and one for ELA content (3 different ELA rubrics for the 3 categories), for a grand total of 40 marks (20 from each). Google Classroom also allows for comprehensive and efficient comments and feedback from the teacher because I could simply highlight and comment in the students' Google Docs themselves. This allowed for transparent communication and assessment to students and parents. Once marked, I return the assignment with a mark to the students where they are then notified electronically. Google Classroom also allowed for the students to leave private comments for me on their projects, or to comment to their friends if they had a question or comment. The use of Google Classroom with PBL allowed for very successful, engaged, independent learning because the students could work on their device in a manner that worked best for them.

Results:

This project greatly affected my personal teaching and I feel impassioned about PBL. I have never witnessed such engagement and motivation from students! Every time I gave a mini lesson or specified some differentiated instruction, it was as if the students couldn't wait for me to be quiet and stop talking so they could get to work. I witnessed students on Individualized Service Plans create infomercials for Renaissance inventions that showed a deep and authentic understanding of how the Renaissance has shaped our worldview today; these same students most likely would have done poorly on a standardized test of the content. This project on PBL shaped my vision of HOW students can learn and HOW I can teach because it was completely student-centred. I believe students were so motivated and engaged because they had CHOICE. I also saw students gain confidence in areas of the language arts where they may have previously struggled (speaking aloud for example, or representing an abstract idea, etc.) because they were able to showcase this strand in THEIR own way. The addition of written rationales also allowed students to prove how their project demonstrates a specific element of worldview or SLO, and allows for meaningful personal connection to the content.

One of the most enlightening aspects of this project was witnessing students learn skills that are beyond knowledge-based outcomes, such as collaboration, problem solving, critical thinking, working with others, creating a plan and following through, time management, etc. These skills are all competencies that 21st century learners of today need to have. I hope that I can have a PBL classroom in the future because I watched it transform a group of young people into independent thinkers, creators, inventors, and problem solvers, who not only became creative and critical in both approach and process, but did so through collaborating with others and pushing their own potential.

DeAndra is currently finishing her PSIII Internship at St. Francis Junior High in Lethbridge and will be finishing her BEd this December. She holds a BFA from Simon Fraser University. When she is not teaching school or dance she enjoys practicing yoga, perfecting her nacho recipe, and learning the newest dance craze! 

Successful Professional Learning Communities: A Sign of Effective Schools​

How do Professional Learning Communities Affect a School?

Description:

As I began looking for an idea for my PIP, I wanted to find something which was both impactful at my school and of interest to me personally. My attention was directed and drawn to professional learning communities (PLC). I had experienced a PLC earlier this year during my second practicum and was interested in looking closer at what makes PLC's most effective for the staff and how they can be most beneficial for students. In my opinion, a high functioning PLC is an essential part of true professional practice.

Method:

I first attended and participated in several PLC's at the division and school level in order to witness what elements of PLC's are at work. I also wanted to address the question of whether what is currently happening works to make the staff and students better. From this time forward I began to research about effective PLC's in schools. This exploration took me to many different websites and articles, as well as to guidelines other schools have developed to make the most of this time together as a professional community. It surprised me how most of the discourse agreed on many key elements that make PLC's most effective. Therefore, I took what the literature considered “best practices” and compiled the research into two formats.

Results:

As a result of my research, I wrote an essay which highlights my findings about PLC’s. I also created two unique documents which can be used by schools and staff to assist in the accountability and vision of the PLC. I believe that these documents help lay a collaborative foundation for teachers to develop a clearer outlook on specific students, classrooms, class dynamics, and new pedagogical practices. Through this process my beliefs about and my participation in PLC's have been heightened. I hope my efforts to develop collaborative relationships with colleagues will always result in deepening the learning and development of my students.

Brayden was born and raised just outside Coalhurst. He has always enjoyed the outdoors and playing games with family and friends. He is currently finishing his final practicum and university career this fall at Raymond High School, teaching both applied Mathematics and Science.

How Can Office 365 Be Best Utilized Within the Classroom (With a Special Focus on Class Notebook)?

Technological advances are continually on the rise. Classrooms need to reflect the reality of the presence of technology within the world. Students are mobile, flexible, and immersed in technology. Why not use it? Schools have websites, classrooms have homework pages, and teachers have emails. Some students still use paper agendas, but more than ever, students are using their devices to keep track of their lives. As teachers, how can we capitalize on student interest in personal devices? One word: Office.

What I did:

  1. Research into Notebook technology potentials, issues, and successes. Furthermore, I looked at add-ins like EverNote.
  2. Created a ‘How To’ Guide for Notebook in a classroom setting. The guide has step by step instructions for how to introduce, implement, and maintain Notebook.
  3. Created additional pages for Notebook that are inclusive of libraries and additives.
  4. Hosted workshops for teachers in the school. I set up Notebook for one class and provided each teacher with a copy of the ‘How To’ Guide.

What my Students Did:

  • In both my Social 7 and Digital Arts 7 classes, students utilized, accessed, and created in Classroom notebooks I facilitated.

Some surprises:

  • I was surprised to see how many app features Office 365 has for the classroom, including Forms, Delve, and EverNote.

Results:

This project has helped students become more independent in their learning. Students have access to digital texts, handouts, and collaborative tools. It is an excellent way to keep digital copies of teacher work and marking as well. Similarly, it has allowed me to share my classroom lessons with other teachers. I have been able extend my knowledge in Office 365 and share my learning with other staff and with the students I teach.

Brandy Old is a dedicated Education student who will emerge as an eager English teacher in January 2017. When she is not teaching children about the Oxford comma, she is rabidly playing Chopin on her portable keyboard. Sometimes she gets distracted by dogs when she is walking down the street.

http://missoldblog.wordpress.com/2016/11/10/what-i-bring-to-the-table/

Authentic Learning Online All the Time

How can we meaningfully incorporate technology into the core subjects?

Description:

I decided to create a project on meaningful and insightful ways to incorporate technology into the classroom. I approached the topic by choosing methods that enhance learning for students with exceptionalities or location barriers, while also seeking to create connections between the curriculum and real life. My initial focus was to make an easily accessible toolkit for teachers in order to facilitate authentic learning that couldn't be easily done in a traditional classroom.

Method:

To begin, I researched methods and tried many of them within the classroom. I consulted with senior teachers at my school regarding some core subjects I was more unfamiliar with. I really needed to evaluate all the resources to decide if they enhanced the learning experience in a way that a traditional classroom could not. I stayed away from time fillers and processes that took a lot of work on the teacher’s behalf.

Results:

I was really surprised with how well the project was received by other teachers and my students. Many of them really enjoyed the projects as they felt like they were really learning something useful, with real-world application. Students were excited to come to class to see what we were doing. Of course, not all students were receptive to the idea. This challenge was my favorite part of the project because it made me think about the components that these students were struggling with, and motivated me to find ways to fix those issues so that they also could enjoy the benefits of technology in the classroom!

In the future, I would really like to continue finding unique ways to integrate technology into instruction. My hope one day would be to create a collaboration site with other teachers that allows them to connect to other classrooms around the world all the time. Students learn from conversation and excitement and I feel like an online classroom really aids in this.

This project contributed to my own learning because it really allowed me to see closely what impacts a student’s desire to learn. I was able to adapt assignments online to learning patterns and desires without compromising curriculum outcomes. I was able to teach to a vast range of needs, addressing both behavior concerns and learning preferences. Purposeful use as well as the versatile nature of technology enabled these successes.

Taylor is a PSIII student graduating with a Combined Degree in Biology/Science Education. She is just finishing PSIII at Warner School, teaching Junior/Senior High Science and CTS. She is excited to start teaching, hopefully in a rural junior/senior high setting.

http://tmckechnie.wixsite.com/meaningfultechnology

Engaged and Productive

How can I give students choice and target their interests in order to increase engagement and productivity?

Description:

I really felt that if students were choosing to enter a Multimedia class they would have interest in at least some aspect of the course, whether that be digital design, photography, audio & video, computer programming, or something else. I almost instantly noticed how disappointed students were when I introduced the initial modules they would be doing. Almost all of them seemed to want to pick something they were more interested in rather than to do what I had chosen for them. Based on what I was observing, I decided to build my PIP around allowing students to choose modules based on their interests rather than teacher-assigned. My intent was to increase student engagement and productivity through this revamping of the class. I would allow students to do much of the learning and set-up on their own, with only a little bit of guidance from me to keep them on track. The intent was that if they were doing something they actually enjoyed they would need much less encouragement from me, and they would develop skills that they not only enjoy, but could continue to build on throughout their lives.

Method:

I decided to begin my project by making sure that students completed the original modules I had setup. It was a bit of a struggle as I had to harass many of them to get their work done and nearly half of the class wasn’t finished on time. I decided to use this initial module as a benchmark to compare the next modules to. It took 3-4 weeks for most students to finish the first one; so one of the indicators of success would be the average time it took students to finish their own modules.

I had to make sure I set up a way for students to track their prerequisite needs, as well as to give them some idea of what to do when setting up their projects. Then I planned to use simple observation to compare the body language and commitment of students before and after. Finally, once students had a chance to complete modules in both ways, I was going to survey them and ask which method they preferred: teacher vs. student chosen/designed, or if they would prefer a combination of both.

Results:

I was told many times in University that leveraging both choice and student interest is a great way to engage students in learning activities. As I researched effective ways to engage students, these ideas resurfaced again and again. Brookes Publishing Co. claimed that interest and choice were two of the top five ways to keep students engaged (2012). Such findings made me very confident that giving students freedom to pursue their interests would increase productivity. I found this prediction to be true, however I did experience some unexpected results. Many students were able to complete modules in 2-3 weeks as opposed to the initial 4 weeks it took them to finish the first one. I also had students who, once quite disruptive in class, suddenly became very quiet as they focused in on their work. Many students were excited and couldn’t wait to start a new project when it was something they wanted to do, for example, photography. As I surveyed the students I found that 16 wanted to have modules that were completely student chosen and set up, and 7 would have liked modules that were a combination; i.e., they could choose the modules, but the teacher would have it set up already. No student preferred to have the teacher choose and set up the modules. Also, nearly every student said they felt more engaged in class when they were able to work on modules of their choosing; only two students said they would prefer teacher-assigned modules in certain situations.

Challenges:

Although I would consider this project a great success, the methods used were not universally effective with my students. Obviously, most students do enjoy choosing their own modules, but not every student became more productive or engaged because of it. I think this result comes from a combination of two main factors: students not being genuinely interested in one specific category over another (many have told me they took the class for “easy credits”), as well as the more important issue of individual learning needs. It seems that interest alone will not trump learning needs. Some students really do need more structured guidance, and will not succeed just because they are doing something that interests them. The degree of freedom I gave them actually becomes burdensome and they become overwhelmed before they even begin. Many of the students are extremely independent, and I have been very impressed with the work they have handed in, but it is not that way for all students.

Conclusion:

I have since decided that it might be best to have a combination system in place, where the student chooses the module, but the teacher has it already designed/set-up. If a student wants to do it another way, that can be an option too. This way the freedom is not eliminated, but there is structure in place for those students that need it. If I were to teach a Multimedia class again in the future I would set it up using this “combination” model, as I believe it would be the most effective way to see all students succeed.

David is currently completing a combined degree in Management and Education, and will be graduating after this practicum. He has thoroughly enjoyed his time at the University of Lethbridge, particularly in the Education program. However, even after 3 practicums David can't decide if he would rather teach elementary or high school! 

http://davidzimmereducation.weebly.com/